I’m the King of the Castle

Water Symbol Icon

At different points in the novel, Charles Kingshaw is attracted to but also repulsed by large bodies of water. He feels comfortable swimming in a stream in the middle of the wood, but he’s terrified by an ordinary swimming pool. For Hill, water seems to be a symbol for the natural world itself. Nature can be “tamed” (as suggested by the swimming pool), or it can be allowed to “run free” (as suggested by the wild, flowing stream in the woods). Charles, with his affinity for nature in its wild and unrestrained form, is naturally more attracted to wild, unpredictable bodies of water, such as the stream in the wood. His fear of the swimming pool, conversely, is like his fear of the moth collection at Warings—since both represent, for him, the subjugation and control of nature, which he associates with his own oppression by Edmund.

Water Quotes in I’m the King of the Castle

The I’m the King of the Castle quotes below all refer to the symbol of Water. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Property and Class Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of I’m the King of the Castle published in 1977.
Chapter 17 Quotes

For a second, he hesitated, part of his mind starting to come awake. And then he thought of everything, of what else would happen, he thought of the things Hooper had done and what he was going to do, of the new school and the wedding of his mother. He began to splash and stumble forwards, into the middle of the stream, where the water was deepest. When it had reached up to his thighs, he lay down slowly and put his face full into it and breathed in a long, careful breath.

Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:
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When he saw Kingshaw’s body, upside down in the water, Hooper thought suddenly, it was because of me, I did that, it was because of me, and a spurt of triumph went through him.

Related Characters: Charles Kingshaw, Edmund Hooper
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 222-223
Explanation and Analysis:
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Water Symbol Timeline in I’m the King of the Castle

The timeline below shows where the symbol Water appears in I’m the King of the Castle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Fear and Psychological Manipulation Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Escape Theme Icon
...the pool, a boy named Turville made fun of him for being afraid of the water. Charles was frightened by the water’s “glassy, artificial blueness.” Turville dared him to jump in... (full context)
Chapter 7
Property and Class Theme Icon
Childhood Theme Icon
Fear and Psychological Manipulation Theme Icon
...the sun comes out. Charles emerges from the bushes and hears the sound of rushing water—it must be a stream. He thinks that Edmund will follow him from now on because... (full context)
Property and Class Theme Icon
Childhood Theme Icon
...grown-up, as if he can do anything. He removes his clothes and jumps into the water. (full context)
Property and Class Theme Icon
Childhood Theme Icon
Fear and Psychological Manipulation Theme Icon
...to get an adhesive bandage from his satchel, and Edmund accepts. As Charles leaves the water, Edmund says that Charles looks like a puppet. (full context)
Property and Class Theme Icon
Childhood Theme Icon
Fear and Psychological Manipulation Theme Icon
...stream. But as Charles approaches, he sees that Edmund is lying face down in the water. Charles pulls Edmund out of the water and drags him ashore. He tries rubbing Edmund’s... (full context)
Property and Class Theme Icon
Childhood Theme Icon
Fear and Psychological Manipulation Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Escape Theme Icon
...and three white tablets, which he assumes must be aspirins. He fills the cup with water from the stream and then balances it over the fire. Meanwhile, Edmund asks Charles what... (full context)
Chapter 8
Childhood Theme Icon
Fear and Psychological Manipulation Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Escape Theme Icon
Charles has caught a fish to eat: he pulls it out of the water and, rather than kill it with his penknife, lets die slowly on the grass. As... (full context)
Childhood Theme Icon
Fear and Psychological Manipulation Theme Icon
...up Edmund and tells him to take another aspirin. As Charles goes to fetch some water from the stream, Edmund wails that he feels hot. (full context)
Chapter 9
Childhood Theme Icon
Fear and Psychological Manipulation Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Escape Theme Icon
As Charles wades into the water, he hears the bark of a dog. His first reaction is to think, “I don’t... (full context)
Chapter 10
Childhood Theme Icon
Fear and Psychological Manipulation Theme Icon
Back at Warings, Edmund claims that Charles punched him and pushed him into the water. Helena Kingshaw believes Edmund and becomes very angry with Charles. Charles denies the story, but... (full context)
Chapter 17
Property and Class Theme Icon
Childhood Theme Icon
Fear and Psychological Manipulation Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Escape Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...missing, Edmund knew where to look for him. As Edmund sees Charles’s body in the water, he thinks, “It was because of me.” He feels triumphant. (full context)
Property and Class Theme Icon
Childhood Theme Icon
Fear and Psychological Manipulation Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Escape Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...smells Helena’s “perfumey smell” and listens to “the sound of the men, splashing through the water.” (full context)